Sunday, May 27, 2012

Light Bacon Ranch Potato Salad with Herbs

Just in time for Memorial Day comes this light and easy recipe. It's potato salad, blended with a light buttermilk ranch dressing (your favorite), a touch of bacon - just enough to give this recipe the name and the flavor, and a few other simple ingredients including a variety of fresh herbs.  

Light Bacon Ranch Potato Salad with Herbs

Before I begin my post today, I have to make a brief comment.   I have been getting quite a few emails lately asking me to "advertise" for this site or for that by posting a link on my blog.   While I am completely flattered that anyone thinks I have enough reach to market their products or services, I do have a commitment with FoodBuzz which allows me to only run their advertisements.

A few of my blogger friends who run diet sites have asked to re-post a couple of my low calorie recipes, with permission.  But I do not endorse any diet or fitness plan on this site nor have I received any compensation from those bloggers nor they from me other than a mutual shout out of virtual friendship. 

But what about those slick Tastemaker videos?  Aren't those ads?

If you are not familiar with FoodBuzz, the Tastemaker program offers bloggers an opportunity to try new products.  We are selected by FoodBuzz to participate, and we must disclose when we received products for those campaigns.  

Have I ever posted a link on this blog? 

Yes, I have.  On a few RARE occasions over the last year,  I have posted a few links where you can find unique or local products, but those were not solicited in any way. Those were part of my personal travel posts and/or instances when I used a local product and I wanted to give my readers additional information.    I do not endorse those products and I believe I have clearly stated that on those posts.

Bottom line:  Links for hire - not my gig.  Sorry.  ;.)

I thank you for respecting my agreement with FoodBuzz.  If you have questions about a FoodBuzz advertisement opportunity or the Tastemaker program, please contact FoodBuzz directly for more information.

Back to the fun stuff...

We are "hunkered down" for a tropical storm here in Central Florida. So I made enough of this dish to pair with a beer can chicken today and hot dogs and hamburgers tomorrow. Yes, we do grill in inclement weather down here.   If the power goes out, we often have no choice.

Here is tonight's featured recipe:

Makes about six servings.


1 pound red potatoes, sliced into quarters (larger potatoes cut into eight pieces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk ranch dressing (light variety - your favorite brand)
1 hard boiled egg (see my tip below), chopped
1 slice bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped dill

Add potatoes to boiling water and salt (more if desired).  Cook for about 20 minutes until fork tender.  Do not over cook.

Drain potatoes and add to a mixing bowl.  Add the ranch dressing while the potatoes are still warm.  Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate over night.

Tip:  If you do not have time to hard boil an egg, add the egg to a microwave egg poacher and cook for about 1 minute and 15 seconds on high heat.  Let the egg cool before slicing, or slice hard boiled egg.  Add to potato salad mixed with the ranch dressing.

Cook one slice of bacon until crispy.  (I like to do this in the microwave as well).  Let the bacon cool and then crumble into the salad.

Add smoked paprika and the freshly chopped chives.   Mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

I hope you have a great Memorial Day.  To all the men and women who have served, this day is for you.  I am happy to report that my nephew, Josh, has returned safely from active duty and he got married the other weekend.  Welcome home, Josh.

We especially remember all of our fallen heroes on this special day.

Have a great day with family and friends, and may everyone in the path of the tropical storm stay safe and dry.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Roast a Mock Tenderloin

Before I begin, would anyone like to guest post on my blog next week? 

I have a lot on my plate with work, life and I'm also creating recipes for a few contests I want to enter.  I am going to cut back and post only two recipes a week for a next few weeks instead of three until things settle down.  When I rush, I make too many mistakes and it's not respectful to you.  I know, most people look over a few typos here and there.  I see them in many blogs and even in most magazines and newspapers these days... which just goes to show how spread thin we all are.  You get to the point where you just feel like you're rushing and that's not good.  I would rather turn out two good posts over three just okay posts.

If you think you'd like to guest post for me, please email me at the email link provided on the blog.  I'd be especially interested in someone who has a low calorie cake or pie to share, because I don't bake.  Send me a quick proposal of what you'd like to post.  Just keep in mind that I while I am not a "diet" blog or even a health and wellness blog, I do try to keep things lighter.  Just don't look at all the sour cream on the baked potato below.  ;.)  Hey, it's fat free. 

That being said...

Today's post is going to be less of a recipe and more of a cooking method.  I haven't done too many of these types of posts in the past.  It's going to be a little different as I am letting the pictures and the directions describe the recipe.  Think of it more as a tutorial. 

I had never tried a mock tenderloin before.   I take that back; I do believe I ate mock tenderloin "steaks" years ago and I was highly underwhelmed.   When I saw this roast on special at my supermarket (it only cost me about 5 bucks), I decided to give it a try. 

Mock Tenderloin

A mock tenderloin roast is not a tenderloin nor is it very tender.   It is actually a chuck steak.  For best results, you want to braise it.  Like a pot roast, you probably want to cook this until it's well done, because you are likely going to serve it with some kind of sauce or gravy.  Unlike a pot roast, you don't have to cook it all day.  It's perfect for warmer weather because the oven only needs to be on for about 90 minutes or up to two hours if you roasting a 2-3 pound roast. 

I preheated my oven to 325 degrees.  

I added a little vegetable oil to a Dutch oven and a little cracked peppercorn to the roast.   No salt for the browning process as I didn't want to pull out the extra moisture from the meat.

I browned the roast on all sides.

Once browned, I rolled the roast in coarse sea salt.   This can be done to taste.  I completed this step right in the same pan that I intended to use for the braise.

To create the braise, I added 1/4 cup Marsala wine to a 1/4 cup of water.  I whisked it together and poured it into the pan with the roast.  I added two smashed whole cloves of fresh garlic to the pan along with a couple of sprigs of fresh oregano to create an aromatic braising sauce.

I covered the meat securely with tin foil and I roasted it for 90 minutes. 

Once done, I took the roast out of the pan and wrapped it tin foil to keep it warm.  At this point I created a Marsala gravy with mushrooms using vegetable stock, a little Marsala wine, and some of the braising liquid.   You can also use brown gravy or a red sauce would work nicely.

You can slice the roast and then add a bit of the gravy or sauce to it and put it back in the oven to warm a little before serving if you like.  This step is optional.

Side note:  The meat does shrink up quite as bit while roasting so consider that when selecting a roast based on the number of people you wish to serve.  This roast yielded about 4 servings.

Look at the end product!

Dinner is Served

Doesn't that look just yummy? I had the leftovers for lunch today.   Wow!

That's it.  The perfect mock tenderloin.

Have a great weekend and I'll be back next week with more recipes to share.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Greek Shrimp Flatbread

I am a corporate trainer by day.   I was at my company's annual software users' group conference these past few days in Clearwater Beach, Florida.  All I did was teach and eat the really good food that goes along with a training conference. 

Unfortunately for me, the food is very good at the resort where we held the conference.  I think I gained back the three pounds I lost this week.  Hello exercise DVD's.

I digress...  So when I arrived home this evening, I wanted something light. 

This dish is a perfect and fresh summertime substitute for pizza. 

Greek Shrimp Flatbread

Serves 4 - (Serving size:  ½ flatbread)

2 Tandoori Naan  (4 ounces or more each)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 cup crumbled Feta cheese, divided

2 cups Arugula, washed and dried

6 Greek olives, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

20 large cooked shrimp (about 2/3 pound), chopped into four pieces each

4 large fresh chopped basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Preheat indoor grill pan.

Combine olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and oregano.  Brush one side of both Naan with the olive oil mixture.  Top each Naan with half of the oregano and ¼ of the Feta cheese.

Add Naan to indoor grill pan (topped side up).  Grill for three or four minutes.

Top each Naan with ½ of the arugula, half of the olives and a ¼ of the balsamic vinegar.

Add remainder of the oil and garlic salt to a sauté pan.  Add cooked shrimp and cook for no more than one minute.   Top each Naan with half of the shrimp and the remainder of the feta.
Turn on broiler.

Add grill pan to broiler.   Broil Naan for no more than five minutes each.  Less is actually better.  You just want the feta to begin to melt.

Top with remaining balsamic (drizzle) and fresh chopped basil. 

Oh, and BTW, my new friend, Carole, who writes Carole's Chatter featured one of my steak recipes last week.  Check out her blog.  Lots of good stuff there!

See you soon!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Orange Coriander Rubbed Sirloin with Gorgonzola

This is a very simple steak recipe.  The longer you marinate the steaks, the better.  I recommend about 4 hours but if you have more time, all the better.  I recommend that you grill up a few potatoes and build a dinner salad like I did.  You can drizzle with your favorite Balsamic dressing.   The steak is also great as a main course served with a variety of side dishes.

Serves 2.


2 Petite Sirloin steaks (about 5 ounces each)
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh;y squeezed orange or tangerine juice
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, coarsely ground
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese for topping

Place steaks in a large plastic storage bag with a zip seal.  Mix together balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Pour mixture into bag and seal it.  Work the mixture into the meat by turning bag several times.  Refrigerate for at least four hours.

Remove steaks from refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan to grill to take the chill off.  During this time, add in the orange or tangerine juice to the bag and work into meat with marinade.

Preheat grill to 400 degrees.

Using a coffee grinder, grind the coriander to a course consistency (about the consistency of cracked pepper).  Adjust to your liking.

After about 15 minutes, remove meat from bag and discard excess marinade.  Pat extra moisture from steaks.  Rub both sides of each steak with the coriander, salt and pepper.  

Grill over medium heat for approximately four minutes each side for medium rare.

Let steaks rest a few if serving whole.  If you are serving on a salad, slice steak and top with crumbled Gorgonzola while you are preparing your salad.  This will stop the cooking process.   This steak is great hot or cold.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Greek Eggplant with Feta

Before I get started, I want you to know that I am learning how to use Photoshop and Flash for a project for my day job.  I decided to try it out on a couple of the pictures for my blog.   My next step in my quest to always improve this blog for my readers' enjoyment is to figure out a few more features on my camera.  I also plan on reading and learning more about food styling. 

Having never taken a photography lesson in my life, it is a challenge but it's a fun one at that.  As I strive to improve the photography on this blog over the next few months, please let me know what you think.  Feedback is the best learning tool.

Hey, I've never taken a cooking lesson in my life outside of Home Ec in junior high, and I think I am doing pretty good in that department.  I CAN and I will master the photos.

Greek Eggplant with Feta

Tonight's recipe is a variation of the classic eggplant Parmesan.   I used dry feta; that is feta that is not packed in liquid but comes in a block.  You will find that this type of feta is firmer and melts more like mozzarella or provolone cheese.   So it's perfect for this dish.  Keeping it lighter, opt for a low fat or fat free cheese.  

My eggplant was farmer's market fresh.  I added a little bit of Balsamic vinegar to the beaten egg to mix it up a bit. 

It is so good.

Serves 2 (each serving is five slices of eggplant). 
Note:  If you are on a diet, you might wish to cut the amount of cheese used in half. 


1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into ten even sized round pieces
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 cup seasoned Italian Bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for passing at the table
Cooking Spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces low fat block feta cheese (cut into cubes)
1 cup Marinara sauce (your favorite)
6 or 7 sliced, pitted black Greek olives
Fresh torn basil, for topping
Fresh chopped oregano, for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place sliced eggplant in bowl full of cold water mixed with one tablespoon of salt.   Let the eggplant soak in the water for at least 15 minutes.  This helps to remove the bitterness.

Beat egg and whisk in vinegar.  

Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. 

Remove eggplant from salty water. Dip each slice into the egg and then into the bread crumbs, coating liberally. Transfer to a baking dish (oven and broiler safe) coated with cooking spray. Drizzle the olive oil evenly (but lightly) over the egg plant slices.

Carefully spray the tops of the slices with more cooking spray. 

Bake eggplant for about twenty minutes until it begins to soften. 

Remove pan from oven and turn on the broiler. 

While broiler is heating, top eggplant slices with equal amounts of the cheese.

Broil for five minutes until cheese bubbles.

Meanwhile, heat your marinara sauce and chop the olives and the herbs.  

Once eggplant is ready, remove from broiler.  Plate five slices on each plate.  Top with a little of the sauce, the olives and the herbs.  I like to serve a little extra sauce on the side. 

Have a little more time?  You can try my marinara sauce recipe (this is an oldie but a goodie).

Note:  The reason that I use a baking dish with sides instead of using a flat cookie sheet is that the eggplant doesn't dry out as quickly while baking.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Chipotle Lime Fajitas

Fajitas are made traditionally using flank steak.  I'm on a serious budget. Petite Sirloin was on sale at the grocery store this week.  Even with grass fed steaks, petite sirloin are often a great economical option.

To reduce the calories in this dish,  you can skip the cheese that normally goes along with a fajita meal. I find that most restaurants serve cheese and lots of toppings with the fajitas because the meat sometimes lacks flavor.  These are so packed full of Southwestern goodness that you won't miss the cheese. 

There are many good quality whole grain tortillas on the market if you do not want to partake of the white flour variety.  But you know what I say?  Everything in moderation and when you mess up, eat less tomorrow. 

I know, not the best advice but sometimes you do have to splurge.

This recipe serves 4 (5-6 ounces of meat and two tortillas).

Important note:  Our Golden, Eddie, got his own "steak" tonight too.  I prepared a little unseasoned steak for him to the side in the pan.  He loved it!  Dogs are people too!  ;.)


2 Petite Sirloin steaks, five or six ounces each

For the 30 minute marinade:

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

For the steak preparation:

Cooking spray for pan
1 teaspoon ground Chipotle
Course sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon butter, cut into eight dots
Fresh chopped cilantro, to taste

For the toppings:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced Serrano pepper
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
2 cups sliced sweet onion
1/2 cup sliced white button mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped Elephant garlic
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 flour tortillas (small 0r "fajita-size")
Fresh lime slices

Place steaks in a large plastic storage bag.  Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, smoked paprika, ground cumin, and coriander seeds.

Pour mixture into storage bag with steaks and seal.  Let the mixture and the steaks sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Add cooking spray to a cast iron or heavy skillet.  Heat over a high heat until the pan is smoking hot.  

Meanwhile, remove steaks from marinade (discard marinade).  Pat steaks with paper towel to remove excess moisture.  This will ensure that the steaks evenly brown.   While you do so, remove some of the coriander seeds.  You can leave a few seeds on the meat, as they will cook off in the pan.

Salt and pepper steaks to taste. 

Add steaks to hot skillet.  Brown on one side, about four minutes.

Turn steaks and immediately transfer to hot oven.  For medium rare, cook only about another three minutes.  Adjust cooking time accordingly.

While steaks are cooking, add olive oil to another large skillet.  Add in the Serrano pepper and cook for one minute.  

Add in red pepper, the green pepper, the onion and the mushrooms.  Cook for three minutes until softened.   Add in garlic at the end.  Toss and cook for one more minute.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wrap tortillas in paper towel and place in the microwave.  Microwave on high for 90 seconds.  Remove immediately and keep warm.

Remove steaks from pan.  Let rest for a couple of minutes in the hot skillet and then remove and slice to stop the cooking process.*

Top sliced steak with fresh cilantro and butter.

*Fajita meat often sits longer on the plate than a regular steak because people tend to make one fajita at a time.  If you slice the meat to stop the cooking process and pour the juices back over the meat, juices will redistribute back into the meat even if it is sliced.  You will prevent the steak from continuing to cook. 

This is a trick often used by skilled cook off contestants when a steak needs to "sit on the board."  That is a term used for the waiting area where your steak sits before a judge tastes it.  

See, you get all kinds of great information when you visit me here, useful or not!   ;.)

Suggestion:   Serve with guacamole and fat free sour cream.

Note:  Chipotle peppers are smoked chili peppers.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Campfire Pork Chops

I am sorry for the short posts this past week.  Still not feeling 100% up to par. 

These pork chops are so darn easy.  They stayed so darn juicy.  Okay, I didn't actually make them over a "campfire."  I used a grill. 

Campfire Pork Chops
Serves 2.


2 bone in pork chops (1 inch thick)
1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, optional
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon light olive oil
2 cups sliced pepper, any color
1 cup sliced onions
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Fresh chopped chives and dill (optional but suggested)

Season pork chops on both sides with the Cajun Seasoning, onion powder and thyme.   Salt and pepper are optional.   I added a little here only a pinch.

Spray a cast iron skillet with cooking spray.  Heat on the side burner of your grill. Once hot, add the pork chops.  Cook on one side until slightly browned, about four minutes.  Turn and cook for one or two more minutes.   Toss the pork chops on the grill and continue to cook for another three or four minutes on each side (turn on grill only once).

In the same skillet, add the oil, peppers and onions.   Saute for for or five minutes until softened to your liking.  Add in Worcestershire sauce

Top chops with the peppers and the onions.  If using, top with chives and dill (to taste) before serving.

I like to serve these with potatoes done in foil packets on the grill.  Yummy!

Before I sign off:

My friend Tess at  nominated me for a couple of awards.  Thank you, Tess.

For the Sunshine award I'm supposed to answer the questions below and pass it on to 10 other bloggers and for the Kreativ blogger I need to post one random fact about myself.  Over the next couple of weeks, I will randomly pass on the love along to fellow bloggers as I see posts which inspire me.  Let me tell you, I love reading my fellow bloggers' posts.  You often inspire me to be a better blogger.

1. Favorite Color- Blue

2. Favorite Animal- Dog

3. Favorite Number- 7

4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink- Mint iced tea

5. Prefer Facebook or Twitter- Facebook

6. My Passion(s)- Family, my dog, cooking and screenwriting (comedy), and helping people become the best that they can be as a professional development trainer

7. Prefer getting or giving presents- I prefer to give

8. Favorite Pattern- Floral

9. Favorite day of the week- Saturday

10. Favorite Flower- Red rose

*Random Fact About Me ... I talk to myself and I often answer, too.  LOL.  ;.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Broccoli Rabe with Tomato and Wine

Broccoli Rabe with Tomato and Wine

If you are wondering why my normally wordy posts are a little briefer than usual, I had a slight set back, most likely due to the procedures I had last year -- we think.  But it's nothing major and I hope to be back up and exercising again very soon.

Dan is a big help in the kitchen.  It's great to have a husband who cooks and cleans.   This week we are opting to make things that are quick and easy. 

In the spirit of blog transparency, I actually prepared this recipe some time back but didn't get a chance to post it.   I love to make this dish.  It can serve as a side, or you can add cooked pasta to make it a meal.

Note:  Don't you just love it when bloggers write things like, "add COOKED pasta?"  Yeah, I am sure you couldn't have figured out on your own that you should indeed cook the dry pasta before serving.  ;.)  We bloggers are silly sometimes, aren't we?  ;.)

I digress...

Alcohol free wine also works nicely in this dish.

Here is what you need:

1 pound ripini (broccoli rabe), washed and trimmed at the stem
2 cups boiling salted water
2 cups ice water
2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
1 big clove of garlic, minced (you need about a tablespoon)
Pinch or two of crushed red pepper, to taste
Pinch or two of coarse sea salt, to taste
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (use organic if you can)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Grated Parmesan Cheese for topping at the table

Wash and stem ripini and separate into florets and leaves.  Keep only about 1/2 of the stem.

Carefully drop the ripini into the boiling water.  Blanch for two minutes.  Immediately remove with tongs and place in ice water bath.

Slice cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.

Preheat skillet over medium heat and add the oil.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Be careful not to brown the garlic. 

Add the cherry tomatoes.  Stir-fry for about two minutes.

Drain ripini and add in  small batches to the skillet with tomatoes until incorporated.  

Add the crushed red pepper and sea salt.  Stir.

Pour in the chicken broth and white wine.  Add in the pat of cold butter.   Reduce to simmer, about two or three minutes. The sauce should start to thicken up slightly.

Remove from heat and plate.  Top with grated nutmeg and cheese.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mushroom and Garlic Penne

This is an excellent vegetarian meal; the type of meal where you really don't miss the meat at all. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s affordable.  I like to serve it with a glass of our local Lakeridge Cuvee Noir or a nice dry but fruity Merlot.

I made this a few weeks ago.  I will be making it again very soon. 

Mushroom and Garlic Penne
Serves 4


1 pound penne pasta
1 pound Crimini (Baby Bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove elephant garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup dry but fruity red wine or low sodium beef broth*
Fresh chopped chives, optional
Grated Parmesan and Romano cheese, for passing at the table

*If using broth instead of wine, cut down on the amount of added salt.

Cook pasta per package directions.  Meanwhile, slice mushrooms. 

Add half of the butter to a hot skillet along with the olive oil.  Add mushrooms.  Sauté over medium heat for five minutes, until mushrooms are browned to your liking.

Add remaining oil and butter along with the elephant garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir and continue to cook for one minute.

Stir in tomato paste and add wine.  Simmer lightly until wine reduces by half.

Note:  If your sauce thickens too quickly, thin it out with a little of the starchy cooking water from the pasta.

Drain pasta.  Top with mushroom sauce, fresh chives and cheese.

Note:  Elephant garlic is sweeter and milder than regular garlic.  The cloves are large.  You can easily find it in your supermarket produce section.   If you cannot, you can substitute ½ tablespoon of regular garlic or one small chopped shallot for a variation of flavor.

Note:  Not an endorsement for the wine.